Are global but think local
September 13, 2012 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Are there differences between Eastern style websites as opposed to Western style sites?

I am looking for a reference that lists the differences in web design between Eastern websites as opposed to Western sites. I've seen that many Japanese and Chinese sites have company profile information that includes the name of the president, number of employees, map, founded date that's very different from the About Us pages on American/European sites. Also I understand that Japanese/Chinese sites are a bit more compact in design because the characters of their language allows them to be, but is there any reference online or am I just imagining this?

I just want to make sure our Japanese customers feel like the site is local though we are a global company.. make sense?

Thanks for your help!
posted by heavyp08 to Technology (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Wanted to give an example of this :
here with Dentsu
here with NTT Communications
here with Japan Airlines
posted by heavyp08 at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2012

I do not know if I quite understand your question, and I have read thousands of Japanese websites. For example, here is the Japanese version of the JAL profile. It is essentially the same as the English one, with the only real difference being a listing of employee numbers (which I do not think is indispensable to feeling "Japanese").

Japanese version of NTT

Japanese version of Dentsu

As you can see by comparison, the English and Japanese versions are essentially identical in format. If you were to ask me the difference between western and Japanese websites, I would frankly say that Japanese websites are a bit behind in terms of the latest features. You might be surprised to learn that despite the high-tech image, Japan has been a bit slower in internet adoption. There is not nearly the social media use as in the US, for example, and for the longest time, most people did their web browsing through their mobile phones rather than computers.

I am afraid I do not understand your question properly. If your page is in English, the Japanese users will not think it is a local page. If the issue is one of layout and formatting, I think whatever you would find appropriate for a western page would not disorient a Japanese user.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:57 PM on September 13, 2012

I had the same problem figuring out your question as Tanizaki. Western and Eastern are too broad of categories to even begin to generalize. I believe your actual question is "How do I make sure our Japanese customers feel like the site is local though we are a global company?" Feel free to correct me if you're wrong.

Localization is a Big Deal. Especially when going from Roman languages to non-Roman languages. There are companies that specialize in exactly this and they are not cheap. At least the good ones. Ideally your web site should be built from the ground up to be localized. That means, among other things, no text on any images, and all text is laid out in such a way to make longer and shorter text flow smoothly and look natural. This is especially noticeable in menu bars, titles, and buttons which can be several long words in one langage and 2 characters in another.

If you don't have that support you really don't have much to work with.

Anyway, making your corporate site look "local" is Advanced Stuff. This is not done by well intended outsiders, it's done by hiring design agencies or consultants who are local to that country. In fact it should not be done if you don't know what you're doing. Trying to do this with partial knowledge can be worse than not trying at all. (If your corporate ID translates into death locally you'll be given a pass if you're obviously foreign. But if you try to look local and you reference death throughout the identity people are going to wonder WTF. And no this isn't particularly far fetched. I've seen this and similar cultural faux pas first hand.)

Besides, Japanese (And most of the world outside of the US) are used to dealing with non-local sites and it's not that big of deal. As long as the name of the local office is spelled correctly. Just make sure you are using an international character set so the local language displays correctly and call it a day.
posted by Ookseer at 2:14 PM on September 13, 2012

Well, when we were in Japan last year and research for the trip, I was frankly, shocked at how bad most Japanese websites were. Like, really bad. Like, as bad as websites ten years ago or more. CSS seemed to be a foreign (harhar) concept, largely. The pages were basically 90% javascript and text images.

Don't get me wrong, these weren't necessarily huge company pages like Toyota or anything, but the standard - especially in regards to accessibility - was very low.
posted by smoke at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know about Chinese websites, but both Japanese and Korean websites are very badly designed. Because internet connections are so fast, and everyone uses Internet Explorer, there's no need for even halfway competent design or code. Things are changing, but it isn't something you want to emulate.
posted by smorange at 5:10 PM on September 13, 2012

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